A portrait of Oliver Hill was dedicated at the Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville in November. Pictured at the dedication are (from left) Renee Hill, Cameron Patterson, Elaine Bankston and Maurice Hopkins.

Portrait of Oliver Hill now on display at Moton Museum in Farmville

A portrait of civil rights activist and lawyer Oliver Hill, who grew up in Roanoke and practiced for most of his career in Richmond, is now on display at the Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville.

The portrait by Midlothian artist Elaine Bankston hangs between galleries III and IV. It is the fourth portrait of Hill that Bankston has painted.

The placement at the Moton Museum, a former segregated school, is a fitting one. In 1951, Hill was one of two attorneys, alongside Spottswood Robinson III, to file the Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County lawsuit on behalf of 117 Prince Edward students seeking to integrate public schools. It later became one of five cases included in the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. [Read more about Barbara Johns, the 16-year-old student who led a walkout at the former Moton High School, here.]

Throughout his nearly six-decade career, Hill fought for equal transportation for Black schoolchildren, voting rights, desegregation of public housing and employment protection. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the American Bar Association’s Justice Thurgood Marshall Award and a number of NAACP recognitions. He is the namesake of the Oliver W. Hill Building in Virginia’s Capitol Square and the Oliver W. Hill Justice Center in Roanoke.

He died at the age of 100 on Aug. 5, 2007.

Bankston, who has painted more than 2,000 portraits of judges, politicians and other Virginians, donated the painting of Hill to the museum. Her first three portraits of Hill reside in the Virginia Governor’s Mansion and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, both in Richmond.

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Wise County fitness business receives $10,000 VCEDA grant

Absolute Fitness, a 24-hour gym in Wise, has received a $10,000 Seed Capital Matching Grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority.

Absolute Fitness, a 24/7 gym in Wise County, was a recent recipient of a VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Grant. Pictured at the gym, from left, are owners Jamie and Brandi Cox, Robbie Chappell and Laura Belcher, gym manager.

Owners Jamie and Brandi Cox recently celebrated the gym’s one-year anniversary, and the business now counts 561 members, according to a news release from VCEDA.

The business currently has one full-time, three part-time and six contract employees, said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA’s executive director/general counsel.

The gym offers specialized classes and fitness equipment. The owners used the grant to buy new equipment.

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Funds now available for breast cancer screening and diagnostic services in Southwest, Southside

Funds are now available to provide breast cancer screening and diagnostic services to uninsured and underinsured individuals in Southwest Virginia, the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation has announced.

The foundation has committed $190,000 for 2023 with partners in Abingdon (Ballad Health), Lynchburg (Centra Health), Roanoke/New River Valley and Southside (Carilion Clinic), according to a news release.

The fund will cover the cost of mammograms, biopsies and other diagnostic tests for those who cannot afford these services.

In 2022, the fund provided more than 400 screening services. To learn more about VBCF’s Screening and Diagnostic Services Fund and determine eligibility for assistance, visit vbcf.org/get-help.

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Giles County official joins new coal communities initiative

Cora Gnegy of Giles County has been selected to be a participant in the National Association of Counties’ Building Resilient Economies in Coal Communities Commitment Coalition, a new network of 20 coal community leaders from local, regional and state government as well as the nonprofit and private sectors.

“As a participant in this initiative, I’m looking forward to observing other communities’ approach to challenges and opportunities, while also supporting Giles by sharing our stories with this national network,” Gnegy, Giles County’s tourism director and economic development coordinator, said in a news release.

Over the next two years, coalition members will work together to deepen their knowledge of
economic resilience and diversification through discussions with national subject matter experts as well as visits to members’ home communities.

The coalition is a Community of Practice initiative supported by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The coalition’s programming is designed to build local capacity to pursue a wide range of economic revitalization strategies, including workforce retention and development, outdoor recreation, business development and funding planning.

To view all Commitment Coalition members and learn more about the BRECC initiative, visit www.naco.org/BRECC.